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You are running Debian stable because you prefer the stable Debian tree. It runs great, there is just one problem: The software is a little bit outdated compared to other distributions. That is where backports come in.

Backports are recompiled packages from testing (mostly) and unstable (in a few cases only, e.g. security updates), so they will run without new libraries (wherever it is possible) on a stable Debian distribution. It is recommended to pick out single backports which fit your needs, and not to use all backports available.

This article illustrates how to:

For official instructions on how to use Debian Backports, visit

If you want to create a non-official backport of a package you need, have a look at SimpleBackportCreation.

If you want to build a backport with the intent of sharing it with others within Debian, see the BuildingFormalBackports page.

Configuring your stable system

In the following example, we will use bookworm as the current codename for Debian Stable. Please adjust the codename accordingly if you are using a different version of Debian.

If you're setting up backports for a system that isn't running the latest version of Debian (e.g. a bullseye system while the latest is bookworm) then you may also want to add a line for the "sloppy" backports section. Currently that is bullseye-backports-sloppy, but after the release of trixie, you'll want to add a line for bookworm-backports-sloppy. Be warned, sloppy backports ruin the upgrade path between versions, but will contain newer versions of packages than in the regular backports.

Adding the repository

Using Synaptic



deb bookworm-backports main contrib non-free


Using the command line

As root, or using sudo, open your sources.list file (Nano is the recommended editor for new users):

# apt edit-sources

Append the following line to the bottom of the file:

deb bookworm-backports main contrib non-free

If you are a free software enthusiast, you might want to remove the contrib and non-free sections. (See Debian package management for details.)

Now that you have added the repository, update APT's cache to include the backports in the list of available packages:

# apt update


Using backports

Finding backports

There are a several different ways to find out if a backport of a certain Debian package exists. A pretty convenient one is using Debian's web-based package search (

Backported versions of packages will also appear when searching their names with the apt search command, or one can view all available versions of a package by running:

apt show package-name -a

Replacing package-name with the name of the package you wish to view.

Installing backports on the command line

The backports repository is low-priority by default. So, if you want to install a backported package, you will have to state that explicitly.

For example:

# apt install cockpit/bookworm-backports

This will attempt to install Cockpit from bookworm-backports, preferring dependencies from stable. Sometimes backports depend on other backports, and it is necessary to specify these dependencies aswell.

(Dependency is just a stand in for a theoretical backport dependency)

# apt install cockpit/bookworm-backports dependency/bookworm-backports

Another option is to use the -t target release flag, but this can sometimes lead to unnecessarily downloading dependencies from backports.

# apt -t bookworm-backports install cockpit

The -t option here specifies bookworm-backports as the target release. This would install a newer version of Cockpit and all its reverse dependencies from bookworm-backports instead of the older one from Debian stable release.


Reporting bugs

Because of limitations in the Debian Bug Tracking System, any bugs relevant to backported packages still have to be reported to the debian-backports list.

Migrate from to

On Sept. 5th, 2010, Backports became an official service (see announcement).

Systems configured to use should be reconfigured to use the new repository/URL (in /etc/apt/sources.list*), since service is already stopped.

  1. replace with in /etc/apt/sources.list*.

  2. run apt update

  3. remove the key from your keyring. Depending how you installed it...
    • apt purge debian-backports-keyring

    • apt-key del 16BA136C

List installed backports

Out of all installed packages, which ones are backports? One way to tell is by version: all backports are tagged with ~bpo, for example, 24.5+1-6~bpo8+1, so at the command line you might say:

    dpkg-query -W | grep '~bpo'

External links

CategoryPackageManagement CategoryRelease